The word prostitute was used as an adjective for about four decades before it became a noun, and as a verb about three decades before it became an adjective. It was first used in a 1530 translation by English court priest John Palsgrave, and rapidly spread from there as a more euphemistic word than terms like harlot or strumpet. The French word eventually traces to the Latin verb prostituere, which could mean "to prostitute" but had a more literal definition of "expose publicly". That's because the lexemes composing it, pro and statuere, mean "up front" and "stand", respectively. The implication is that sex workers solicit openly, but the word originally didn't even have to do with any of that. Pro did not change once from Proto-Indo-European, and statuere (the etymon of status) derives from PIE steh, "stand".
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.